Before CBYC, what was your exposure to theatre?
Cindy Avila: I had little exposure to theatre prior to participating in CBYC but it has inspired to become more involved. I’m thankful to have such an amazing opportunity available at such a young age. Writing reviews has caused me to focus on my writing and, more importantly, has caused me to be more observant. Prior to CBYC, plays were interesting to me but now they are truly a work of art. I’m in awe when I consider the amount of time, energy, and effort that’s required for a production to develop. As a result of participating in this program I have decided to embrace the theatre world by directing my own play, participating in other theatre programs, and even leading theatre conferences in Chicago. I can confidently say this has resulted from being involved with the Goodman.
Vanity Robinson: Before CBYC I participated in Goodman’s General Theaters Studies program for three years and saw several productions with the group at Goodman and different theatres around Chicago. I’m on standing stage crew at my school and took Speech and theater appreciation classes.
Chevelle Blackburne: I had visited a couple theatres on class field trips and when I was in grammar school my parents took me to a play. Therefore, I had not had much experience with the theatre.
Dawn Raftery: From 2002 to 2006, I reviewed plays at theaters in the Chicago area for a chain of west suburban newspapers owned by the Sun-Times company.
Michele Popadich: Before CBYC I’d see a couple plays a year. I’d often see Goodman productions but I’d also attend other theaters and school performances as well.
Why did you want to participate in CBYC this year?
CA: I thought CBYC would allow me to develop my writing skills, allowing me to test the waters of critiquing. Little did I know it would allow me to become more observant, meet fabulous and energetic people, and open the doors to some great opportunities.
VR: I thought it would be a great opportunity to network with other youth and experienced adults doing the same thing that I’m doing. I really got the chance to explore journalism and how it can tie into my life.
CB: I was offered the program on the second to last day of the application submission process. When I heard that it had something to do with writing I immediately jumped on the opportunity because I thought it’d be great experience since I’d like to major in journalism.
DR: I came across an online mention of CBYC at a time when I was no longer reviewing plays. Quite simply, I missed going to the theater. I joined the Association for Women Journalists so I could participate in this new, exciting program. I also knew it would fit with my experience as an editor of hiring, training and mentoring young reporters.
MP: I love writing so when I was given the opportunity to explore a new type of writing I’ve never been exposed to before I jumped at the chance.
How has the program affected you as a writer?
CA: More than anything, I’ve developed my writing technique to stay on topic, clear, and now structure my work in a way that captures the attention of my readers. As with any writing assignment, I’ve also been pressed to meet deadlines and have learned to carefully edit my reviews.
VR: I have become a bolder, expressional writer. My writing features my own voice and personality, clear and effective enough to express my point of view. It helped me to tear away from the contrarians of academic writing and to try something new.
CB: The program has shown me much of the branch of entertainment in writing. For example, I had no clue that there was a difference between a feature and a review or that I could write a feature without seeing a performance.
DR: The program’s basis in the arts has helped return me to my roots as a writer of fiction and poetry. Long before I was on the path to becoming a journalist, I dreamed about being the next Sylvia Plath or Margaret Atwood.
MP: It has definitely made me more thoughtful as a writer. It wasn’t like I was writing a generic essay about the play. I really had to think about all aspects of the production from the story and acting to the staging and costuming. Learning how to write for radio and writing features presented me with other methods of expressing my ideas about the productions. The tasks I had were different, so my writing technique had to change as well.
How has the all-female dynamic of the mentee/mentor relationship shaped your experience?
CA: It’s nice to know that there are programs which specifically focus on teaching young women about the journalism field but I felt that the program does not actually have to be dedicated solely for females. I hope to see the program develop into a coed group because it should be the quality of the work that determines whether one is accepted or not rather then the gender of those who actually develop a piece. I hope that CBYC is also an opportunity that continues to involve students from all around the Chicago land area.
VR: The exposure to female work, people like myself with whom I can connect, is most influential because I can practically picture myself working where they are. It’s easier to see a role model in someone who has faced the same tragedies and triumphs that you will most likely come across in your own career and journey and be able to learn from them. You find inspiration in the future if you do come across difficult waters you can look back at your mentor and say “Well, she made it. So can I”.
CB: I think since all of my other writing experience has involved males this helped me to see things in a very clear light. Before, if I was listening to a lecture with a co-ed crowd, I might have gotten lost on the messages meant for only males. Also, I don’t have to worry about the distractions that usually emerge from audiences which included males.
DR: It reminds me of my days at Northern Illinois University, when I would sit around with fellow students and debate gender-related issues during the classes I was taking for my women’s studies minor. I love discussing and analyzing the female perspective in a group of articulate, insightful young women.
MP: Being in an all female environment has definitely made this program unique. Although we don’t all share the same opinion, our discussions are always very absorbed and reflective. Also the environment is very encouraging especially since the program is targeted at giving young girls an opportunity in theatre critiquing. Having a mentor gave me the opportunity to talk to someone with more experience and insight so I could really perfect my reviews. It was great to have so much support and help.
What has been your favorite moment or element of the program thus far?
CA: It’s amazing to think of the networking that has been made possible as a result of participating in this program. Developing one’s writing skills is important but I also think it goes unnoticed how all the participants are able to express themselves through group discussions and even network with those they sit next to during the plays. By participating in this program you absolutely have to be observant, ask questions, and commit to deadlines and meetings. Some of the best moments I’ve had in CBYC have been completely spontaneous. Upon arriving early to see the productions, I am able to introduce myself to those sitting next to me and engage in an intellectual and very thought provoking dialogue. Through simple experiences I feel as though I’ve become more interested in theatre and will certainly take what I’ve learned to university as well.
VR: I love when guest speakers come to talk to us about their contributions and positions in the world of journalism. It’s a chance to really hear what’s going on in the real world of journalism right now.
CB: I really enjoyed the play God of Carnage. It’s been my favorite thus far for it’s constant use of humor and irony. As far as the meetings, I really liked the meeting where I gained the courage to ask who our ‘guest speaker’ was and was soon applauded. I felt quite special.
DR: It’s hard to top meeting Brian Dennehy or Carla Gugino—and I’m not just talking about my being starstruck. These are actors whose work I truly admire. But what I most enjoy are the close relationships I’ve formed with my mentees, of course, and other mentors. I even formed a writers group with a former CBYC mentor.
MP: It’s difficult to pick one defining moment. I think overall I really enjoyed all our discussions about the plays. If I felt one way about a play, it’s guaranteed that there’d be a differing point of view. It was just really interesting to have so many different ideas and opinions come together in one discussion.
Would you recommend CBYC to other journalists and/or students?
CA: Even if you have no idea whether theatre or critiquing is the right thing for you, CBYC is an opportunity that I would strongly urge students to apply for. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into but I would recommend the program to all my friends and peers. I would encourage all students to get involved in any writing program that’s available in order to meet new people, engage in discussion, continue to stay proactive, and perhaps test the waters in a new area of interest. If you were ever afraid to write for the school newspaper, CBYC allows you to submit work you can feel confident in and have the reviews professionally edited. It’s amazing to think that we are doing exactly what some individuals do for a living, which is why this program should be of great interest to all!
VR: Would I? Oh, I have recommended this program to every sophomore I think would at all benefit from this. I’m most looking forward to hearing the story of their experience and seeing how the program effects their lives as well.
CB: I would and have already recommended CBYC to many other students. I think it is very beneficial as far as writing experience goes. Also, I think this exposure to theatre might teach many students about traditions, classics and more.Furthermore, in my case one of my ‘life’s’ problems was elaborated upon and almost even solved. We went to see the play Mary by Thomas Bradshaw. He took the courage to write a play on the connections between racism and discrimination of sexual orientation. Though the play was not all around pleasant, it made me very happy since I have not had the opportunity to have a descent conversation to someone about my thoughts on it.
DR: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter what you field you work in after college. Good writing skills are highly coveted—and unfortunately sometimes lacking—in workplaces other than newsrooms. CBYC will help you sharpen and polish your ability to think critically and voice your views.
MP: Definitely. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often. And especially for other aspiring writers, this really could give them the chance to nourish and develop their writing skills and expose them to all kinds of theatre.